Interview with Michael Graeme

Published 2019-11-29.
When did you first start writing?
I discovered the inner power of creative writing when I was at secondary school (that's what we called it in the late seventies). I was writing my first hopelessly naïve and love-lorn novels from about the age of 17 or so.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the North West of England. I draw on my own experience when writing, though not in an autobiographical sense, just using those settings that are familiar to me - so the towns and the countryside in my novels are the England that I know.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
If we're talking materially - fame and fortune and all that - it hasn't, and it won't. That said, Smashwords is a brilliant platform that allows us to put our work out there and find readers. It cuts out the soul destroying, impregnable and Byzantine labyrinth of publishers and agents. In that sense, Smashwords, has been a life-saver, keeping me going as a writer. If you're happy to call that success, and I am, then it's contributed greatly.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Necessity. I've had some small success with placing shorter fiction in magazines, but trying to attract a publisher (and therefore readers) for my novels was impossible - and I tried for twenty years. It was suffocating. Becoming an independent author and discovering an online readership was like breathing fresh air again.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Browsing a charity bookshop in an old English Market town, a place gone seriously to seed since the crash of 2008. We're all a little poor, disheartened, cheaply dressed, the more fortunate just scraping by, the rest sleeping rough and begging in doorways. You turn and glimpse a beautiful young woman, finely dressed, elegant, an apparition of alien loveliness. All of that is fact, what happens next you get to read about in my novel "Saving Grace", which of course is fiction.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Never knowing where it's going. I'll start with an opening scene and a few characters, maybe also a rough plan for the way ahead, but as soon as those characters start talking they end up driving the story in their own way. From then on I just take notes. And their way is always more interesting. I write primarily for myself, for my own pleasure. If others can enjoy it too, all the better.
Who are your favorite authors?
Of the past, I'd say Hardy, Orwell, Conrad and Mary Webb are the ones I've devoured in their entirety. Of the present, Niall Williams, John LeCarre, Sebastian Faulks, Sebastian Barry, Louis De Bernieres, Partic Harpur, JG Ballard, Kurt Vonnegut and a dozen others I've yet to make the acquaintance of.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My Android smartphone running the Moonreader App. If I'm at home I'll use the iPad for the bigger screen, but the Smartphone is always with me, wherever I go, which means so is my library. People say the computer is killing reading, but I'm reading more now than I ever did.
Describe your desk
I don't have one. Sharing a home with family requires some flexibility, so I use a laptop and work peripatetic fashion, settling down with it wherever I can.
How do you approach cover design?
I fiddle around with ideas for a graphic as the story progresses, then try things out on Paintshop. I prefer to do my own covers - it ties in with my love of drawing and painting - and it adds to the creative experience of my stories.
What are you working on next?
It's called the Inn at the Edge of Light. I said I was going to take a year off from writing fiction after "Saving Grace," but here I am already with the first draft nailed and surrounded by a cast of fascinating characters. It's previewing on Wattpad at the moment, but as always the final polished work will go up on Smashwords.
What is your writing process?
I begin with an opening scene, a handful of characters and a feeling for where I want the story to go. Beyond that I have no plan. Then I just start to write and the story begins to develop on its own - the dialogue and the situations unfolding by themselves. I'll draft out a couple of chapters this way, then go back and redraft. This gathers momentum for pushing the story out a little further, then redraft. Redraft. Redraft.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I don't market, beyond posting links to my stuff on my blog. I've tried tweeting and posting to my facebook page, but find it's not really effective, probably because I don't have that many followers and life's too short to go chasing them. All the same, readers do find my books, and sometimes they mail me to say so. I'm not aiming to be a big name author here. I just like to write.
What do you read for pleasure?
I have a lot of fiction on the go at all times. I read anything - high or lowbrow. I browse the charity shops where books are cheap and I add to my "books to be read pile" on a weekly basis.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The fond memory of my mother's voice saying "get up, Michael, you die in bed." She had a point.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I have to confess I don't read many original ebooks. They're mostly self indulgent rubbish. ;) More often I'm looking for an obscure 19th century title and discover they have it over at the Internet Archive as an epub or something.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Yes, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Won it as a Sunday School prize when I was about ten (what were they thinking?). I managed to get a few pages in but it bored me to death and I still haven't finished it half a century later. Sorry, but some books just have that effect on me.
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